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Commentary :: Social Welfare
Her Name Is Florence
03 Jul 2008
Homeless in New bedford, massachusetts

She walks the streets of New Bedford, bags in hand all hours of the day and night. People from all ends of the city are familiar with her. Her name is Florence. An aging women with a melodic tone to her voice. She appears to have been a good looking women in her early years, a face now weathered from the harsh reality of street life.

She wears a white dress reaching below her knees, exposing her legs to the bitter cold in winter, covered by what was once a white quilted hooded jacket. She wears the same clothes all year. Her feet are covered with sneakers, which are unsuitable when the snow is covering the ground. Her graying hair sticks out from the hood, and a white makeshift face mask covers her mouth. It's just a question of whether she is trying to prevent catching germs or prevent others from catching hers, nobody knows for sure.

She carries a large amount of white plastic bags, but nobody knows what is inside them. I often wonder if it's just a bunch of bags inside of bags, because after all that is what is expected of a "bag lady." Almost like clockwork she pops into a neighborhood bar every night around the same time. Drags a chair to the corner where she sits with bags in lap. She doesn't bother anyone and doesn't want anything from anyone.

Those who she trusts she will eventually on occasion speak to, but men are taboo in her mind. She won't allow a man even to come near or approach her. She'll get up and move her chair if one does. A pattern of a woman who was badly hurt or abused by a man, and I think most people think that also. She cat naps most of the night, through the noisy crowd and juke box. Just before closing time, like a ritual she waits until nobody is in the ladies room and will go inside and lock herself in.

As the doors close behind her, and everyone else goes home, she if off to her next destination. A Dunkin' Donuts, a 7-11, or any place that is open all night and will allow her to stay there. This is her life. I often wonder what happened to this women that got her to this point in her life, a nomad, that walks the streets. Some say she was a dancer in her younger years. Some say she is from New York City. Some say she isn't homeless at all, and that she owns a tenement house that she lents out to migrant workers. Why would she walk the streets if she truly has a place to go? I suppose nobody will ever know for sure whether Florence's problem is that she is homeless, or if her problem is even bigger than that.

There are many homeless shelters she could go to, but her strange ways with people is most likely what prevents going to one. New Bedford is a city that is concerned with it's homeless population and former Mayor Kaliz started a "ten year plan to address and eliminate homelessness in the city of New Bedford 2005-2015" that can be read in phd form here.

If the former mayors plan is a success, the only people who will be homeless in New Bedford, will be those who are homeless by choice, those like Florence.

New Bedford, Homelss Plan
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